Janice Dean Claims Don Imus Pointed Gun at Coworker, Roger Ailes Asked: 'How Are You at Phone Sex?'

Janice Dean Claims Don Imus Pointed Gun at Coworker, Roger Ailes Asked: 'How Are You at Phone Sex?'

For the more than 20 years that Fox and Friends meteorologist Janice Dean has been in broadcasting, she’s had to cope with the abuse of male power. But with the arrival of the #MeToo movement, it now feels safe to speak out.

In her new memoir, Mostly Sunny: How I Learned To Keep Smiling Through the Rainiest Days, Dean details the harassment she experienced while working under Don Imus on his radio show, and the uncomfortable moments she experienced with her next boss, Roger Ailes — the ousted Fox News Chairman and CEO.

“Throughout my whole career, not only broadcasting, but the other jobs that I’ve ever done, I’ve always been in situations where there has been [an oppressive male] power dynamic, or that person that says uncomfortable things,” Dean, 48, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview about her book, out Tuesday.

Mostly Sunny is an exploration of Dean’s biggest struggles, from her “devastating” MS diagnosis and abandonment by her father, to being threatened at knife point during a home robbery. But her book doesn’t dwell on the darkness. Instead, Dean wants to help others overcome their own struggles — including harassment in the workplace.

In her book, Dean reveals that one of her worst experiences in broadcasting occurred when she started working on Don Imus’ radio show in 2002. (In 2007, Imus was fired by CBS Radio for insulting comments he made on his show about the Rutgers University’s women’s basketball team.)

“That job should’ve been my best job,” she says. “On paper, it was the job I should’ve shined at. It had everything that I ever wanted. It had radio, it had television, it was exciting. [But] it turned out to be one of the toughest periods of my life.”

She recounts a list of injustices — each one more alarming than the last. Not only does she claim that he regularly told her that she was “an idiot, stupid, useless, a moron,” he also commented on her appearance and told her to lose weight. Dean also alleges that he regularly carried a gun on him. Once, he “pointed his gun a few feet away from the back of the traffic reporter’s head,” she writes. Then he “snickered.”

Imus’ allegedly violent threats didn’t end there.

“Sometimes he would take the bullets out in front of us one by one and say, ‘This one could be for Bernie. This once could be for Lou, and JANICE…’ ” she writes. “Yes, he named the bullets from his gun after us. How sweet.”

Don Imus has not responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

During this job and later ones, Dean turned to female coworkers for support and did her best to navigate these types of uncomfortable encounters.

“[I] either kind of stay away from that person, or laugh it off, or … remove myself from that pattern of behavior without having to go complain to anyone,” Dean explains. “Because it’s only been fairly recently that the earthquake has started. I would say now I don’t feel fear anymore.”

But working with Imus was too difficult, she says. Dean quit her job and got a job at Fox with the help of Roger Ailes, who would make her uncomfortable in a different way. In 2016, Ailes was fired after multiple allegations of sexual harassment. (He died in May 2017.)

In the fall of 2013, Dean writes that she met with Ailes to discuss working for Fox. He asked her to meet him for a drink and then surprised her by “grabb[ing]” her hand.

“And held it. Like a date. Did I have a boyfriend? (I did: I was seeing Sean.) Was it serious?” Dean recalls in her book. “He was still holding my hand awkwardly across the table and asked if I had thought about him after our last meeting. I gently took my hand out of his and took a big gulp of wine. I told him I was excited at the idea of coming to work with him at Fox while thinking to myself: This is a very strange job interview.” 

Dean alleges that she had other odd interactions with Ailes, like the time he asked, “How are you at phone sex?” But she admits she “never really thought he was serious” and found ways to laugh off his comments. Following Imus’ dismissal from the radio show, Dean was devastated when Ailes dissuaded her from talking to Vanity Fair about Imus’ past behavior.

” ‘But what if I was your daughter? Don’t you think I should tell my story about how horrible he was to me to warn others?’ ” Dean remembers asking Ailes in Mostly Sunny. “Roger still said no. Best to leave it.”

In a statement to PEOPLE, Fox News said, “Since Roger Ailes’ near immediate removal from the network following an external investigation by an outside law firm, FOX News has undergone a massive reorganization and cultural shift towards an open and transparent environment. The entire Human Resources department was overhauled, mandatory sexual harassment training was instituted, additional methods of reporting inappropriate conduct were added and communication with employees was increased tenfold. We operate under a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment, and unlawful harassment of any form, which has been strictly enforced.”

Ailes then hired Imus to host Fox Business channel’s morning show in 2009, and Dean writes that she was “horrified and felt betrayed.”

When the allegations came out against Ailes in 2016, Dean was shocked. Though she feared for her job, Dean writes that her friend and coworker Megyn Kelly convinced her to join her in speaking out.

“If Roger was not a serial harasser, he had nothing to fear,” Dean writes, recalling Kelly’s advice. “And if he was, all the more reason to speak up.”

Later in her own memoir, Kelly accused her former boss of repeatedly sexually harassing her.

Kelly said Ailes made inappropriate remarks about her clothing and suggested he would help advance her career “in exchange for sexual favors.”

Despite Ailes’ questionable behavior towards Dean and his later dismissal, she doesn’t see him as a monster. In both her book and her interview, Dean says that he was a complex person with a “good side.”

“He wasn’t Darth Vader, like some people portray him to be,” Dean says. “I saw that good side of him, so it was a hard line to walk.”

She also commends the Murdoch family for hiring an independent firm to investigate the sexual harassment allegations.

“I realized they did the right thing,” Dean says. “[Roger] did things that were inappropriate and wrong, and he was removed from Fox News, the place that he built. That’s a testament to the Murdochs.”

Upcoming Roger Ailes Movie Will Be ‘Searingly Uncomfortable,’ According to Star Elisabeth Röhm

While the whole experience was incredibly challenging, Dean loves her career and her coworkers. She’s also excited about the change in the culture.

“I really feel that the climate has changed,” she says. “We still have a long way to go, but I also wanted to write in the book [about] my experiences, so that women that are getting into the workplace, or that are still in school, have maybe a roadmap of some sort on how to deal with these things.”

“I think it is getting better. I don’t think it’s solved by any means, but I go into the bathroom at Fox News now and there are signs in the bathroom that say, ‘if you’re experiencing workplace harassment, here’s the number to call,’ ” she continues. “We haven’t slayed all the dragons, but our voices are being heard.”

Mostly Sunny is on sale now.

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